Why South-east Governors Are Jittery Over Eastern Security Network

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David-Chyddy Eleke examines the concern of South-east governors on the establishment of Eastern Security Network proposed by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu

Not long ago, the South western region of Nigeria rolled out the drums to launch the establishment of a regional security outfit for the people of the South west zone of Nigeria named Amotekun. Amotekun is Yoruba word for Leopard. The inauguration ceremony was a huge one as the South western governors all attended, each attired in outfits designed to look like the dotted skin of a leopard, as a depiction of the name of the security outfit being launched.

Prior to that, the entire country had been set on a discourse over the right of each region to establish its own security outfit. The discourse had pitched the federal government directly against the governments of the South western states, as the federal government had insisted that the state governors had no right to set up a security outfit, especially when the police, controlled by the federal government is there to protect all.

The South west governors also stuck to their gun, insisting that the insecurity in the country was a major reason for the establishment. Before then, there had been incidences of kidnap and killing of farmers and travelers, straight from their farms and also on the highway. Two of these incidences had involved elder statesman, Olu Falae, and daughter of Yoruba leader, Pa ReubenFasoranti; who were abducted from his farm and, killed while on a journey, respectively, by persons suspected to be Fulani herdsmen.

In the end, the governors won and went on to launch Amotekun. They didn’t just launch it, there was a huge show about the facilities jointly procured by the governments of the states in the region for the outfit. Brand new Hilux vans painted in red colour, uniforms for the operatives of the outfit, and also arms which they displayed during a parade at the inauguration of the group. All these depicted a people who were hell bent on ensuring security for their own people as the federal government-controlled police had failed to secure them.

It was believed that with the success attained by the region, the South east that are also not better off in terms of security would lunch theirs. Some influential people told journalists that plans were still in the offing to come up with one. On one occasion, while addressing journalists, a diplomat, former secretary to government of Anambra State and Peoples Democratic Party candidate for the 2017 governorship election in Anambra, Mr Oseloka Obaze gave a hint of what lay ahead as regards the launching of a regional security outfit for the South East.

He said plan to float the outfit was being speedily worked on, and that a committee was working round the clock to ensure that arrangements were put in place for the inauguration and commencement of the outfit. He said that the committee was shopping for a name for the outfit, and that soon, the Southeast Governors will announce the name of the outfit.

A source who spoke to THISDAY then however revealed that several names were already on the table to be picked for the outfit, and that deliberations were on going. Some of the names given by the source who sought not to be named include; Agu (Tiger), Odum (lion), Mkpakana (trap) and many others. Asked why the committee was not going for a name like Ogbunigwe; the name for the locally manufactured machine gun used by Biafra forces during the civil war, the source said the name already had an origin that is deeply rooted in the secession bid of the Igbo, and using it may send the wrong signal.

The source added that, “The creation of a regional security outfit, especially among the zones in the South has become very imperative. It will give the people the power to secure their people without waiting for the police or military, who will always foot-drag after every incidence of insecurity in the zone.”

Close to a year after a meeting of the South east governors in Enugu gave the hint that a regional security outfit was on the way, no mention has been made of it any longer. This may have led the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to launch Eastern Security Network, a regional security outfit that would protect Ndigbo from the ravages of insecurity, especially from killer herdsmen. Announcing the launch of the outfit, Kanu said the failure of South east governors to secure the lives and property of Igbo people led to the formation of the Eastern Security Network.

In a statement Kanu, said the Southeast and South south regions have resolved to defend their territories from terrorism and extra-judicial killings. He accused the governors of sleeping while external forces killed their people in Biafra territory. He warned that the people of the regions would not allow what happened at Oyigbo in Rivers State to repeat itself.

“For years, our mothers have not been able to go to their farms for fear of being raped and cut into pieces. Our invaders, some of them from Sene-Gambia are in our villages raping and killing people at will. The Delta State Government has inaugurated Operation Delta Hawk, a security outfit in the classic fragmented approach of the South east to issues of national importance. The West has made effort to combat terrorism in their territory through Amotekun and even Miyetti Allah had the guts to float a vigilante outfit that has spread to every nook and cranny of the country with the support of the Presidency and northern governors,” Kanu said.

He wondered why governors of the South east have allowed themselves to become fragmented for fear of displeasing their masters, adding that the Eastern Security Network was modeled after Amotekun in the West and Miyetti Allah vigilante group in the North to protect the South south and South east from bandits and terrorists.

“We have allowed ourselves to become willing tools of the caliphate in our destruction. Unfortunately too, some Igbo people have been cajoled and intimidated to the point where they now deny their own identity. We present our first and last line of defence, the Eastern Security Network to end years of terrorism in our land,” he added.

His announcement of the launch of the group has set tongues wagging, but what is most interesting is that the tongues wagging against the launch are not from the North, the South west or even the presidency. The tongues are those of Ndigbo.

First to fire a dirty salvo on IPOB was the South East Governors Forum. The group speaking through the Chairman, Engr David Umahi who is also the Ebonyi State governor described the outfit as laughable. Umahi, in a statement, said: “Our region remains the safest, and nobody can deny this. And so, our brother said he had formed a security outfit for the South east. It is very laughable and should be ignored. I commend the South east governors very highly. It is only the South east that the leaders are being criticized openly. I want them to ignore the side distractions.”

Another group, a pan-Ohanaeze Ndigbo socio-political organisation, Conference of Igbo Elders for Peace and Development, in their condemnation of the ESN acknowledged that the zone needs a security outfit to secure her people from banditry, but insisted that IPOB was less competent to set up a group for the people of the region, citing it as an outlawed group. It rather encouraged governors of the South east region to establish a security outfit, to curb the rising cases of banditry and kidnapping ravaging the region.
National President, Dr. Festus Edochie, and Secretary, Barr Esther Amadi, in a statement disowned the security outfit set up by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, noting that it is an illegal outfit that would plunge the region into a deeper problem with the Federal Government.

Edochie said: “We observe with utmost shock and concern a disturbing video of a group of some misguided youths code-named Eastern Security Network, bearing arms and circulating on the social media. In the said video, the group which claimed to be operating somewhere in Anambra State carried Ak-47 and other dangerous weapons under the guise of providing security against violent crimes being committed by herdsmen in the region. We condemn this group and its activities in its entirety and call on all South east governors and well-meaning Ndigbo to come out and condemn this act of criminality being sponsored by a self-appointed leader of a proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.

“While we recognize perfectly the yearning and desire of every Nigerian today for community policing and self-security due to the insecurity in the country, we insist that it must be done in accordance with the law of the land and by the right people who are legally empowered to do so. No group or individual has the legal right to bear prohibited firearms of that nature without the proper backing of the law. Hence we must all rise in the South east to not only condemn but also distance ourselves from this act without delay.

“No doubt, the current security architecture of Nigeria has failed and Nigerians deserve to protect themselves but that must be done within the premise of the law. We are Nigerians and cannot form a parallel security arm that bears prohibited firearms for any reason in our region. It is not in the place of IPOB to organize such a group armed with automatic weapons, no lawful country or citizen will support that, even the civilian Joint Task Force which is supported by law with members assisting in fighting terrorism in Borno State and other parts of North East don’t use automatic weapons.

“In the South West, also Amotekun which is lawfully set up by the authorities in the region does not use automatic firearms. Bearing prohibited firearms under any guise is unacceptable. Only dane guns and pump-action rifles can be licensed in Nigeria. We have restrictions in Nigeria on the use of firearms and nobody is above this law. The obvious gap in our national security notwithstanding, a proscribed organization like IPOB does not have the right to arm a group of young men with automatic weapons in the name of a security network or any nomenclature. It is totally unacceptable and must be resisted by all Ndigbo of goodwill.

“We are therefore calling on all the South east governors and businessmen in the region to pull resources together and form a security outfit like Amotekun or civilian JTF backed by law, which can be controlled and be effective. Finally, we wish to call on the South east governors, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other well-meaning groups to come out to condemn the act of criminality that may spark unrest in the region thus portraying Ndigbo as bad and lawless people,” the group stated.

Away from the calls by various groups to disregard Kanu and his security outfit, the IPOB leader has however gained the backing of another group, Igbo Youths Movement. Its President, Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko blamed government for the seeming miles the agitation for a sovereign state is gaining among South easterners. He said instead of addressing the problem of the agitators, the federal government always thinks force can solve the problem.

“The issue is bigger and deeper than it seems. The agitation is developing twists and turns, simply because the authorities stubbornly refused to engage the agitators earlier than now. The Federal government preferred military operations like Python dance etc., which only deepened the schism, the resolve, and the anger of the agitators. That is the truth. Everybody knew this day would come, we only pray the situation is handled with utmost care. It is a delicate and sensitive situation. It could lead to something bigger and dangerous.

“Had the government engaged the agitators in a dialogue before now, we would never have gotten to this point. But it seems government listened to those who argued that engaging the agitators would make them relevant thereby discrediting the elders. They forget that governments engaged the Niger Delta agitators. Obasanjo hosted Boyloaf, Ateke Tom, Dokubo, Tompolo and co, both Yar’adua and Jonathan invited them, dialogued with them, and listened to them, later Amnesty deal was struck, elders like Chief Edwin Clark and co, pleaded with the agitators to come out from the creeks and go to Abuja and dialogue with the government.

“Government has been begging Boko haram to come to the table, government negotiates with them from time to time to release hostages, government dialogues with killer bandits, Governor Masari poses with bandits in photographs and announces he has entered into a deal with them. Governor el-Rufai tells us he pays Fulani herdsmen in order to beg them to kill no more. Government negotiates, engages and dialogues with everyone except the angry young folks from the East, who say they want out of Nigeria. Government only sends them Python dance, threats, proscription and terrorist tag. They are also killed without qualms. Different approach for different regions. The style of different strokes for different folks, only deepened the resentment and the determination of the agitators.

“Another reason is the deception by the South east governors that they will establish a regional security outfit, to check the offensive brigandage of armed Fulani herdsmen, who have left a trail of blood and despair, with their unprovoked attacks that has bewildered everybody, especially with the seeming inability of the authorities to rein them in. The South east governors promised twice and then reneged. Nature abhors a vacuum. The governors raised the hope of the people, then crashed it.

“Had the spineless South east governors kept their promise of guarding and protecting the region from the ceaseless assault of the marauding herdsmen, there would have been no reason for this. So we put the blame at the door of our cowardly governors, who ostensibly placed their vice presidential ambitions over and above the well being of the people of Eastern region.

“I bet you rural farmers who have seen hell in the hands of Fulani herdsmen who rape, decapitate, slaughter and burn at will, as if the world is theirs, would be rejoicing over this outfit by the agitators. Government should engage with the agitators, before things get out of hand. The elite and the political class are apprehensive and worried. The youths are asking and looking for how to join, the masses are ambivalent. My take is that government decision not to engage the agitators is simply counterproductive. That is the truth. More disturbing developments will certainly emerge, as long as government refuses to engage them. The whole thing is gradually drifting to a worrisome level,” Ugochukwu-Uko stated.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all these, IPOB doesn’t seem perturbed in ensuring that the ESN does the job of protecting the people of the South East. In a recent press release, he chided the South East Governors Forum for asking that it be disregarded saying, ” We condemn in very strong terms, the recent shameful statement credited to Gov. Dave Umahi on behalf of his fellow lilly-livered and coward governors of South east against the newly established Eastern Security Network. Such a cowardly statement is nothing but a shameful display of their irredeemable enslavement and loyalty to their caliphate slave masters who in the first place appointed them Governors.

“They only further exposed their emptiness and detachment from the people. At a time when well meaning individuals and groups from the entire Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt are hailing the setting up of ESN, the so-called governors are busy advertising their opposition to the people they claim to be leading. Anyway, they never had the mandate of the people. So, we are not surprised. But our message to the treacherous South-East governors and their South south counterparts is that ‘the train has since left the station’ and can’t reverse it’s cause. It’s pretty too late to have a rethink. The people have got what they long desired, which the cowardly governors failed to give them because of selfish political interest,” Kanu said.

Though THISDAY cannot confirm that the group is already operating anywhere in the South east, IPOB insists the group is already at work. In the South west, recent security breaches has put a question mark to the potency of Amotekun, as it was believed that its inauguration will fully bring to an end all criminal activities in the west, especially those associated with killer Fulani herdsmen. In the South east too, even though the governors are not in support, one can tell that the rural dwellers want nothing but security around them to be able to go to their farms without being molested, and only time will tell if IPOB’s ESN holds the ace of security in the zone and would be supported by the ordinary people.

QUOTE 1

The issue is bigger and deeper than it seems. The agitation is developing twists and turns, simply because the authorities stubbornly refused to engage the agitators earlier than now. The Federal government preferred military operations like Python dance etc., which only deepened the schism, the resolve, and the anger of the agitators. That is the truth. Everybody knew this day would come, we only pray the situation is handled with utmost care. It is a delicate and sensitive situation. It could lead to something bigger and dangerous. Had the government engaged the agitators in a dialogue before now, we would never have gotten to this point. But it seems government listened to those who argued that engaging the agitators would make them relevant thereby discrediting the elders

QUOTE 2

He wondered why governors of the South east have allowed themselves to become fragmented for fear of displeasing their masters, adding that the Eastern Security Network was modeled after Amotekun in the West and Miyetti Allah vigilante group in the North to protect the South south and South east from bandits and terrorists.
We have allowed ourselves to become willing tools of the caliphate in our destruction. Unfortunately too, some Igbo people have been cajoled and intimidated to the point where they now deny their own identity. We present our first and last line of defence, the Eastern Security Network to end years of terrorism in our land,” he added